Tag Archives: Band

The Ozark’s Worst Kept Secret – Ha Ha Tonka – Death of a Decade

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For a few years now Ha Ha Tonka has kind of been our little Ozarkian secret. Not that we were trying desperately to keep it that way, in fact I for one have been starting blazes wherever I could hoping to watch the wild fire burn. It’s been a privilege knowing these guys since 2004 when they were still learning how to walk as a band, then under the name of Amsterband, and it’s hard to imagine it has been 7 years, a name change, a record label, and 3 albums since that day I first saw them play.

Photo by Rafe Preston

Playing a Rowdy show in Warrensburg, MO – April 2006

Finally it appears all my hard work setting fires has paid off… 🙂 haha, ok so I don’t have much to do with it as their music speaks for itself and if you happen to catch these guys live you’ll be hooked as soon as your foot starts stompin’ and you can’t help but sing along as the guys are belting out the chorus. After two previous album releases I’ve seen the fan base grow a little each time, but Death of a Decade seems to be grabbing the attention of music junkies nationwide as their album showed up on the Billboard 200 at #185 and the Billboard Heatseekers Chart at #4 the week it was released. So it’s pretty safe to say it’s time to share our secret with the world. If you asked me, it’s about damn time!

Before I talk about Death of a Decade let me tell you what I liked about the two previous albums (Buckle in the Bible Belt and Novel Sounds of the Nouveau South.)

Click Album Cover to go to it’s Amazon Page.

Buckle in the Bible Belt
BitBB was their first release under the new label Bloodshot Records. It was actually self-released before the signing and was recorded in an old church in Union, MO. This album is by far their rowdiest, most foot-stompin’ album to date and they did their best to make it sound like their live set. It’s raw and fluff free. Just four guys making some music. They still play a lot of song off this album such as crowd favorites, “St. Nick on the Fourth in a Fervor”, “Caney Mountain”, “Up Nights”, and “Hangman.”

Click Album Cover to go to it’s Amazon Page

Novel Sounds of the Nouveau South
NSotNS had this haunting, timeless feeling to it. You can tell this album was kind of experimental for them. They did a lot more playing around in the studio with different sounds which becomes very apparent in the song “What Shepherds of These Hills?!” Though I think of this album as their softer album, that doesn’t mean they don’t get rowdy. The songs on this album seem to have a lot of ups and downs. They’re melodic and putting you to sleep at one point and the next thing you know you’re being awakened by some gritty guitar and hollering lyrics. I for one really loved the movements in these songs. It kept them interesting and gave them depth.

Click Album Cover to go to it’s Amazon Page

Death of a Decade
So that gets us to the third album released through Bloodshot Records, Death of a Decade. I can easily say I think this is the best album they’ve produced. It shows just how much they’ve matured and grown into the their sound, which is hard to place into one specific genre. This album I feel goes in a more bluegrassy-rock direction than the last two because of the heavy influence of that little 8-stringed instrument known as the mandolin. Brett Anderson drives many of the songs on this album with some great mandolin riffs that are quite catchy by themselves. Luke Long’s bass vocals have improved and were much more noticeable, making the four part harmonies really stand out as a whole. Brian Roberts’ writing just keeps improving too. I love the lyrics and the unique way Brian delivers them. He has some really catchy lines on this album. Lennon Bone makes the songs come alive with his creative drumming and I love that he’s not afraid to stop playing and let the songs breathe for a bit. I can tell this album was very well thought out, yet it still manages to keep that simplistic feel to it; it’s not over produced. From start to finish you can’t help but bob your head and tap your foot. See them live and it’s a whole different story. Bring your dancing shoes.

I’d like to go on and continue the review of each song, but in case I’m boring you have a look at the just released video for “Usual Suspects.”

Ha Ha Tonka, “Usual Suspects” from Bloodshot Records on Vimeo.

Photo by Rafe Preston

The boys playing a high energy set to end their tour – April 2011

The songs are listed in album order. The number associated with the track is the order of my favorites, 1 being favorite.
Usual Suspects (9):
This song starts the album off giving you a sense of what’s to come. Starting with that driving mandolin and an infectious beat that gets your blood pumping and your legs moving. It also introduces you to some of the clever lyrics you’ll be hearing along the way, “100% I am made of cotton. I shrink when I sink in hot water. That little girl, so hot she’s scalding. Ain’t gonna be nothing left of me.” Usual Suspects is a great opener to the album that rocks you from start to finish and leaves you eager to hear more.

Westward Bound (10): This song has a coming of age feel to it as Robert’s belts out, “I realize the youth is wasted on the young. Oh, I know I’ve wasted more than some…Oh, I know that now my wasted days are done.” Toned down a bit from the soaring Usual Suspects this medium rocker shines when the anthem like chanting of “Na Na’s (or maybe it’s La La’s)” comes in while Robert’s sings, “Hard times, we left ’em back east. And the future moves under our feet.” You can almost see Roberts smiling as he sings this song and it leaves you with a hopeful feeling about the future of this band.

Made Example Of (3): This is one of my favorite tunes and I think one of the catchier songs on the album. It’s another track that’s really driven by the mandolin and the drums that kick it off just after the brief intro. The mandolin riffs are almost eerie on this song and it consists of some of my favorite drumming and it’s great example of that breathing I was saying Bone lets the songs have. It has one of the simplest statements in it, but it’s so deep at the same time, “If you don’t change where you’re going, you’re gonna end up right where you’re headed.” You gotta do something if you expect a change.

Photo by Rafe Preston

IHOP with Bnizzle and Bone – Febuary 2005

Jesusita (5): This song starts out with some simple guitar plucking and 4 part harmonies with Long’s bass vocals really standing out. The guys all pleading, “Heaven help us now!” Then it kicks it up a notch when all the instruments come in and everyone starts chanting some “OHOooOOos.” Lyrically this song is a bit dumbed down from Roberts usual deep and rhythmic writing, but you can’t help repeating with them as they sing that haunting chant over and over.

Lonely Fortunes (4): And back again is that sweet sweet mandolin sound. This time it’s taking more of a back seat as the kick drum really drives this song. When the mandolin is in the forefront it’s just such a pleasing and catchy sound. Lyrically, this is one of my favorite songs, “We’re never gonna have much. Myself I take such as a compliment. We can blame it on the circumstances. Oh at least we took the chances we had to.” There are some more really great parts to sing along with when the guys start chanting their “La Dee Da’s.”

Hide it Well (1): I’ve read several reviews that have talked about a lull in the middle of the album and some naming this song as the one that kills the mood. I’d have to completely disagree with those claims. This is my absolute favorite track on the album. Though it may be slow it has some of the best harmonies on the whole album and some really great guitar picking. Not to mention the lyrics just flow like butter off the tongue. Every song doesn’t need to raise my heart rate to keep me intrigued and I think this is a welcomed break in the middle of the album. There’s no hiding it here. I love this song. “Honey my heart is a heavy one. I need to rest a spell, for you it was I fell. Nobody wants to act like they care too much. I’m gonna hide it well.”

Photo by Rafe Preston

Brett Singing @ Off Broadway – Opening for Murder by Death – March 2010

Dead Man’s Hand (11): I’m usually a pretty big fan of Anderson’s lead vocal songs, but this one just didn’t do much for me. It’s by no means bad, there just doesn’t seem to be much about it that really stands out to me and makes me seek it out to listen again. I still don’t pass it up if I’m listening to the album though. I do really like the opening, but it just doesn’t seem to go anywhere from there and the song seems a bit repeated. I do love the lyrics, “We got drunk off a whiskey blend. They’re all the same when you can’t stand.” I feel like I’m really bashing this song, but I really don’t mean to. Anderson’s high vocals do shine and there is some great harmonizing. Just cause it’s my least favorite on the album doesn’t make it bad, it’s still a great song.

Problem Solver (7): This hard rockin’ song brings back memories of Buckle in the Bible Belt and turns the volume back up. It starts off with some great electric guitar plucking and then some really cool clapping kicks in. This song features some of Long’s best vocals and if you have issues controlling your bowels careful on this one cause those bass vocals are liable to loosen something up. The song takes a little instrumental break in the middle before finishing out strong just the way it started. There are some really clever lyrics in this one hidden in there with that repeating chorus. “I had a little momentary lapse of self-awareness, she could care less. Yeah, I got problems that I’m working out. I know enough to know I don’t know myself yet.”

Death of a Decade (8): There is something really epic about the sound of this song. The drums start out so simple and build up wonderfully. Then towards the end there are some great gang vocals that just make the build up seem so timeless. It’s hard for me to put this song so far down on the list, but that just goes to show how many great songs are on this album. With the Death of a Decade could come the raise of something new, time to make a change. “I was just about to change. Man, I gotta change my ways.”

Photo by Rafe Preston

Brian and Brett stompin’ their boots to a song @ Record Bar – 2011

No Great Harm (2): This song really just has it all. Bone laid down some amazing drums, the mandolin is in full swing, and the harmonies are top notch. It’s a got a great build to it. Starting off pretty mellow and getting into a pretty full fledged sing-a-long at the end. I listened to this album probably 3 times before I even recognized how amazing this track was. It’s kind of a sleeper buried at the end of the album between the title track and the great closer. I’m really glad I came around to this song as it’s one of my very favorites now. The beginning is quite sad, but the wording is perfect. “Carry me softly, six men strong. On their shoulders, a box of bones.”

The Humorist (6): Knowing Roberts I’m sure this song is a bit of a tribute to Missouri writer and fan of Ha Ha Tonka, Mark Twain. Ok, so maybe he’s not a fan, but I’m sure he would have been if he had heard this song. This was another one that took several listens to really appreciate. I’m pretty sure it was the chanting towards the end that really won me over. “Tell me how deep that river is. Tell me how deep that river is. Say my name. Say my name. Everybody yell Mark Twain. Ain’t it entertaining, isn’t it appealing, the thought of something’s always much better than the feeling.” This electric guitar driven song was a great way to end the album.

After putting out 3 very different albums it’s hard to tell where Ha Ha Tonka music may be a year from now, but I can only imagine wherever it is, it will be fresh, exciting, and in my CD player for months. Whatever you do, don’t keep these guys a secret.

Important Ha Ha Tonka Links:
Homepage
iTunes
Facebook
Myspace
Last.fm
YouTube
Twitter

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Song(s) of the Day – 9/15/10

Well, apparently I’m not so good at this blogging thing as I’m routinely missing my Humpday Song of the Day! So here I am playing catch up again. Got two for you today. One I was just recently exposed to by Christina Maria, the Canadian women that was in my last post. And the other was shared with me by an old Australian friend many years ago.

Nina Kinert – Beast

So let’s start with the new. The song is called Beast and it’s by a Swedish Folk singer named Nina Kinert. Wow, just wow, what a great voice and a kind of haunting simple song played on the piano and accompanied with some strings. I can’t wait to delve deeper into this artists music. Unfortunately her newest album can’t be found on iTunes.

Found this cool live version. The only album version on YouTube was a still shot of the album cover and that bores me!

Nina Kinert Links:
Official Website (This site is pretty useless as it only has a couple links to click and one is to order her CD and it’s in Swedish and the other is to her Myspace page)
Myspace
Last.fm
Wiki

Northstar – Pollyanna

Now on to the next treat for the day. This song is called Pollyanna and is by a band that broke up in 2005 named Northstar. Two of the members of Northstar have gone on to form the band Cassino. Northstar was kind of a high energy alternative rock band with some catchy songs. Even though one of their favorite songs of mine is more of an acoustic ballad called Two Zero Two I wanted to show you their fun side.  Why they never got as big as some of the bands they used to tour with is a mystery to me.

Sorry, couldn’t find a more interesting video for this song. Plain album cover with music.

Northstar Links:
Myspace
Last.fm
Wiki

Song(s) of the Day – 8/18/10

  

I missed last weeks Song of the Day and thenn promised 2 Songs on Friday and failed again to get that out. So I’m going to be posting 3 Songs today. To cut down on the size of this post I’m only posting the chorus to each song and two links to the bands.

The Black Keys – Too Afraid to Love You

Just recently got into The Black Keys and they’ve been blowing me away. There is just something timeless about their sound. Bluesy, Rocky, Soulful! I like so many of their songs, but because of lack of a good video on the one I wanted to pick (10 Cent Pistol) I decided to pick Too Afraid to Love You. Still a great song!

There really isn’t a “chorus” on this one so here’s a snippet of the lyrics:

I’m just one wishing
That I was a pair
With someone
Oh somewhere

The Black Keys Links:
Official Website
Last.fm

 Mumford & Sons – Awake My Soul

Mumford & Sons is another relatively new band that has found it’s way into my rotation. Talk about some great folky, bluegrassy music with a nice kick of rock! The way they pull off the slower songs and really rock out on some really reminds me of my friends from Ha Ha Tonka. One thing that is so cool about these guys is the fact that they have no drummer. The lead singer has a kick drum for his right foot and a tamborine mounted to a pedal for his left foot. Plus, their banjo player has to have one of the coolest banjos I’ve ever seen. I didn’t know they even made them in anything other than the basic round ones.  Anyway enough talking.

Chorus:

In these bodies we will live
In these bodies we will die
Where you invest your love
You invest your life

Also, I couldn’t not post this video too. It’s Awake My Soul again, but it’s been chopped down some and set to some clips to one of my favorite movies. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Mumford & Sons Links:
Official Website
Last.fm

Broken Bells – The Ghost Inside

Apparently this is the update that includes bands I’m just now starting to fully appreciate. Broken Bells is another one of them. This time I randomly came across them while browsing SXSW videos. They are a bit more experimental, using strange sounds in some of their songs. Almost techno type sounds, but they are much more melodic than your average techno song with one line being repeated over and over. While looking them up on Google I found out that the band consists of Brian Burton, of Danger Mouse, and James Mercer, the lead singer of The Shins. If you know the shins you know Mercer has quite the distinct voice, very pleasant to the ears! Burton has also produced for Beck, the Gorillaz, and The Black Keys (Coineciendence they happen to be featured in this post…yes, ironic..yes) so you know the quality of their sound is top notch. Here is a strange video to one of my favorite songs off their debut album.

Chorus:

Feel like a daughter
She’s like a star tonight
Without warning
She gave up
The ghost inside

Broken Bells Links:
Official Website
Last.fm

Song of the Day 8/04/10 – The Future Freaks Me Out by Motion City Soundtrack

 

It’s here it’s here! Humpday Humming…ok this isn’t much of a song to hum to, but I felt like busting a move instead! I can’t believe it’s been a week since my last post. Whoops sorry. My last post was last weeks song of the day. Anyway, upward and onward!

Love me some Motion City Soundtrack! I’ve been picking a lot of slower acousticy type stuff that is probably boring you to sleep at your office computer! So here’s a little pick me up for your Wednesday…let’s get you over that hump and ready for the weekend! This band is a much more energetic band than the last few I’ve posted and if you are familiar with more popular music you’ve probably heard of them. If you haven’t then I’m ashamded to be your friend…JOKES! All is well though, cause now you are going to get a chance to check them out.

Also from now on when I post my song of the day I’ll be posting the current position that band is in on my Top Artist on Last.fm as well as the number of plays by that band. Stats will look like this.

#37 Motion City Soundtrack – 130 plays

Enough chit chat! Here’s a video to their song The Future Freaks Me Out by Motion City Soundtrack

Lyrics:

I’m on fire and now I think I’m ready to bust a move
Check it out I’m rocking steady
Go!

Betty won’t stop listening to modern rock
How she hates to be alone
I try to compensate her lack of love with coffee cake
Ice cream and a bottle of ten dollar wine she says hey
I rock the Haro sport
I rock the cow girl blues
I rock too fast for love I’m footloose in my Velcro shoes
What’s up with Will and Grace?
I don’t get drum and bass
The future freaks me out

I’m on fire and now I think I’m ready to bust a move
Check it out I’m rocking steady
To the beat in my head
It goes oh, oh-oh-oh
I know that she’s the only one
I’d rather waste our time together
Yeah, ‘cause we can get down

Betty can’t quit carving question marks in my wrist
How come we’re so alone
We waste away the days with nicotine and television samples
From an era we hate to admit we embrace
We fail to represent
We fail to be content
We fail at everything we ever even try to attempt
And so the story goes
As only Betty knows
It’s time to take control
(Get Down)

I’m on fire and now I think I’m ready to bust a move
Check it out I’m rocking steady
To the beat in my head
It goes oh, oh-oh-oh
I know that she’s the only one
I’d rather waste my time with her

Betty, I need you
I miss you
I’m so alone without you
To call up on the weekends with my cellular phone

Betty it’s so hard to relate
To the whole human race
I don’t know where to begin
I don’t know where to begin
If we can both find a way
To do the things that we say
We might not sit in our rooms
And drink our daydreams away
Betty, I’m a dreamer
I’m not a vicious schemer
Oh Betty won’t you.. ah fuck it

I’m on fire and now I think I’m ready to bust a move
Check it out I’m rocking steady
To the beat in my head
It goes oh, oh-oh-oh
I know that she’s the only one
I’d rather waste our time together
Yeah, ‘cause we can get down.

Links:
Motion City Soundtrack Webpage
YouTube
Myspace
Facebook
Last.fm
Twitter
Wiki

Song of the Day 7/07/2010

It’s that time of the week again. Good ol’ hump day. Which means time for the song of the day.

This weeks song of the day is Some Constellation by Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin (Often shortened to SSLYBY). My freshman year at Drury I attended a random party in a small on-campus apartment and this goofy dude was playing the keyboard and mixing songs so everyone would dance. It was a great time considering the lack of space and the lack of actually knowing very many people there, but I ended up finding out that Philip, the guy playing keys, played for a band called Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin.

Me and the roommate would frequent local shows and finally got a chance to see them live a year or so later and it was great. They have two lead singers that switch off from song to song and they tend to switch instruments from time to time. Guitarist switches to drums, bassist switches to guitar, and drummer switches to bass. Made their live show interesting.

With a kind of indie pop sound it’s really hard not to enjoy the tunes these guys produce. I don’t think they’ve made a song I haven’t loved. Off their most recent album, Pershing, I couldn’t stop going back to Some Constellation for another listen. It’s a bit more laid back then the rest of the album, but that tends to be the songs I like most. Hope you enjoy.

Birds on the pillow
And paper lanterns hangin’ from the ceiling
Sticky stars aglow
Mappin’ out some constellation
I’m tired of standing in the light outside her window
For her I would row to the ends of my imagination

Pleasure to behold
A silhouette so real yet oh so static
Measured and controlled
Lets down her hair, takes off her army jacket
I’m trying to figure out what’s right – do I stay or go?
For all she doesn’t know, oh, cause she wishes that she still had it

Birds on the pillow
And paper lanterns hangin’ from the ceiling
Sticky stars aglow
Mappin’ out some constellation
I’m tired of standing in the light outside of her window
For her I would row to the ends of my imagination

Undiscernible lyrics fade way…(Something about “the middle of the night”)

Band Links:
Myspace

Facebook
YouTube
Last.fm
Bandcamp
Twitter
Wiki

The Pursuit of Happiness, Art, Music, Photography, Film, Poetry, and Spirituality

Exclaim: You’re Alive!

I’ve chosen this title for my blog as I hope to post on the many reasons Life is good and I think we should share our joys of being Alive. Exclaim, shout, share your joys of life for everyone to…well, Enjoy!

In this blog I’ll be focusing on a few things that really put a smile on my face.

Art: I’ve always had a love for art in any fashion. I don’t practice any Fine Arts very often these days, but will do some sketching occasionally. If I blog about Art it will most likely be about another Artist I find interesting. I’ve got a lot of my photography on a great artist site called Bluecanvas. If you are an artist I highly recommend you setting up an account on this site. Here’s my profile.
http://www.bluecanvas.com/rafe

Music: There are so many flavors of music and I find myself enjoying quite an eclectic mix of tunes. There is nothing that makes me feel the emotion more than the simplicity of a passionate singer strumming with a guitar. I’m a big supporter of local music and tend to stay away from the Radio. Not that I don’t enjoy some of the music found there…I just find a particular joy in discovering music that’s not just handed to me via mainstream outlets. I might end up doing a Song of the week or Band of the week thing at some point. You can also expect a review of any new music I acquire. If you are curious as to what music I’m into you can check out my Last.fm profile. If you are a music lover like myself then look into getting a Last.fm account if you don’t already have one. It posts (they call this scrobble – you download a program that shows what songs you listen to) all the songs you listen to onto your profile and gives you stats like: Most Listened to Bands/Songs etc. I’ve had an account since Sept. 2006 and have scrobbled over 30,000 songs. Another cool feature is the Musical Compatibility. Go to any user’s profile and it will tell you how compatible your two music tastes are…fun to see how you compare with your friends. Here’s my Last.fm profile.
http://www.last.fm/Prafeston

Photography: Maybe it’s the easy way out, but my love of Art shifted at some point around the time I graduated high school to Photography. I’ve always thought I’m a creative dude, but in some instances I’ve had trouble expressing my ideas on paper or other forms. I have always had an eye for beauty, form, positive & negative space, and the unique aspects of life seen through our eyes. Photography has given me an easy way to capture these things. I recently started a Photo A Day Challenge and will post an update on a weekly basis with photos from the week. I’ll probably have a random post here and there about photo related topics and/or ideas.

Film: In college I was suggested by a friend to try out a Video class and I have thoroughly enjoyed making and editing anything and everything. I’ve posted many of these videos on my YouTube Channels. I’m hoping to start doing a bit more Video Blogging so you can expect to see those show up here as well. Who doesn’t love a good Movie? If I watch one I find particularly interesting or worth talking about I’ll give it a review.
http://www.youtube.com/Prafeston – Mostly Live Band Videos and College Projects
http://www.youtube.com/IamRafe – My new Blogging Channel

Poetry: Being a big music fan I have grown to love poetry and lyric writing. It’s not something I do A LOT, but I do like to write occasionally. I don’t have any formal training in the area so I feel like my poems lack structure at times, but I have found I have a way with words and rhythm that it seems to just come naturally to me. You can look forward to me posting old poems occasionally and new ones here and there.

Spirituality: I grew up in a Christian (Presbyterian) home and God has always been a part of my life. I’ve gone on quite the Spiritual jounrey since I was in high school. I’m very open minded about Christianity and Spirituality in general. As with all aspects of my life I’m a big monkey see monkey do or learn by example kind of guy and this has carried over into my spiritual life. I believe Jesus’ main messages were Love. I don’t push religion on anyone and I don’t think I have the biblical knowledge to even do so, but I do believe I can be an example of Christ by showing his love in all that I do…at least I try. I have fallen away from God some in the past few years. I’m a little unsure of where I am in life and where I want to go. I travel a lot and haven’t gone to church on a regular basis. It would be nice to find some time to do some reading of the Bible and get in the habit of praying again. Should I read something worth writing about or think of something spiritually related it might make it’s way into a blog.

Conclusion: I hope to keep this blog going as I’ve tried many times in the past to write on a regular basis and it just hasn’t happened. If you like what you read please subscribe and help me feel like I’m writing for a reason. Look forward to lots of posts on all aspects of my life, but in particular the ones which I have mentioned above. Art, Music, Photography, Film, Poetry, and Spirituality. Feel free to suggest a topic for me to write about as well. I’m open to any ideas. Get used to lots of Exclamation points! Lots of Randomly capitalized Words! And Lots of Ellipsis… 🙂